When Billboard interviewed Rhye (Mike Milosh) ahead of the release of his second album Blood, the singer/multi-instrumentalist told us that despite his breathy, gentle voice (some mistook Milosh for a female singer when Rhye’s astonishing music debuted out of nowhere in 2012), he’s “weirdly kind of tough.” For example: “If someone messes with me, I’ll punch you in the face. I’m not that soft.”
That masculine energy is ever so slightly more apparent on new album Blood than debut Woman, but it was certainly felt when Rhye played Brooklyn Steel on Friday (March 2) evening. While Blood added more syncopation and percussion to his Sade-inspired alt-R&B sound, Rhye in concert is a muscular, at times sonically aggressive act. Of course, plenty of songs remained fully restrained affairs, such as the lovely “Please,” but other tracks were stretched into extended jam sessions that touched on everything from the irrepressible soul-funk of Curtis Mayfield to late ‘60s psychedelic soul bands like Vanilla Fudge and Rare Earth (the jammy outro to the live version of “Open” could almost be mistaken for part of the latter band’s 21-minute cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready”). And the funky, frenetic guitar line in “Phoenix” ensured the show was a much more dance-friendly atmosphere than what you might expect if you only know Rhye from the LPs. (Speaking of shaking it, Nathalie Kelley, who appears in the “Song for You” video, came out on stage at Brooklyn Steel to dance.)
Of course, there were plenty of hushed moments, but even those were tinged with Milosh’s aforementioned toughness. Prior to a vocally impressive “Song for You,” Milosh quieted down the crowd to let the fragility of his voice fill the room. Mid-song, some people started talking again, and Milosh was not having it; he specifically pointed at the disruptive section and militantly shushed them into submission.
Hey, even when you’re a sensitive soul, you can’t let people fuck with you.
Rhye’s tour continues through March 17 in North America before heading over to Europe on March 22.